ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A female police officer with less than 2 years' experience withstood a barrage of gunfire from a gunman who wounded a top House Republican and four other people on a Virginia baseball field last week, giving fellow officers an opportunity to return fire and kill the shooter, her police chief said Monday.
Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown lauded the heroic actions of Officer Nicole Battaglia and two other officers who were the first to arrive at a field where GOP congressmen were practicing for their annual charity baseball game against Democrats.
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House majority whip, was one of five people wounded in the shooting. A bullet entered his hip and shattered bones, blood vessels and internal organs, causing massive internal bleeding that put his life at risk. He has undergone several surgeries, and his condition was upgraded from critical to serious on Saturday.
The gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, 66, was an unemployed home inspector who volunteered for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and had a history of animus toward President Donald Trump and other Republicans.
Officers were first dispatched to the scene at 7:10 a.m. Wednesday, Brown said, and Officer Kevin Jobe, a 16-year Alexandria police veteran, arrived less than two minutes later. Battaglia and another officer, Alexander Jensen, arrived around the same time.
Battaglia "immediately started taking fire from the suspect, and she jumped out of the car, without cover, and moved towards the firefight. Not away from it, towards it, to the point where she was actually pinned down in the parking lot with a barrage of weapon fire from the shooter," Brown said. "That act alone, probably, in my opinion, diverted the attention of the shooter away from the other officers, allowing them to get in position to deal with the situation."
Two U.S. Capitol police officers, who were among those wounded in the shooting, were the first to return fire at the gunman. The Alexandria officers were uninjured. Authorities have not revealed which officers fired the fatal shots.
The shooter was "neutralized" less than three minutes after the Alexandria officers arrived on the scene, Brown said.
Alexandria firefighters and paramedics also rushed to the scene to help the victims before they even got a 911 call, Fire Chief Robert Dube said, because the gunfire could be heard from two nearby fire stations.
Battaglia has been on the Alexandria force for 18 months, while Jensen is a 2-year veteran. Both work in patrol and handle calls including violent crime. Brown declined to say whether they had fired their weapons in a hostile situation before. All three officers are on routine administrative leave.
"What they went through is not something that most people go through, not in this business. We train for it all the time," Brown said. "They're doing fine."
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